On the first Saturday of every month, the last remaining ‘ official’ opium users in Maharashtra reach the state excise depot in Bori Bunder, to collect their sanctioned quota of opium, which is provided to them by the state excise department. Those who miss the date can collect it on the last Saturday of the month.
In order to get a licence, one was required to produce a certificate issued by the medical board, which justifies his or her consumption of opium on health grounds, mainly as a painkiller. The user is now required to undergo medical checks every year at the time of renewal of the licence, certifying his or her requirement for consumption. The licences are non-transferable: this means they cannot be used by their children or relatives after the licensee’s death.
The opium that the licensed users get is grown in government-run poppy fields in Uttar Pradesh ( UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP). According to KS Pilankar, sub-inspector of state excise at the opium depot, the department sends a list of users to the narcotics commissioner in Gwalior at the beginning of every financial year, along with the requirement for the year.
The narcotics commissioner then issues a sanction order to the opium depot at Ghazipur in UP, where all the crop grown in government poppy fields across UP and MP is sent for processing. The Ghazipur depot then sends the consignment.
Once procured, the consignment i s divided i nto small units, each weighing around five grams and packed in small plastic boxes.
Each plastic box costs Rs 2, in addition to the cost of the opium. The boxes are sealed with excise department tapes.
Each licensed user in Mumbai is issued 30 gm of opium every month, in six boxes. Every gram costs Rs 12. Users outside Mumbai get 50 gm of opium every month.
The excise duty per kilogram of opium is Rs 64.50. The duty has not changed in the last 50 years.